Injustice Never Gets the Last Word

Cincinnati’s Racial Wound

On July 19th, an old Cincinnati wound that has been slowing healing for the past 14 years was reopened when white University of Cincinnati campus police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed African American Samuel Dubose. Mr. Dubose was pulled over for not having OH state tags on the front of his car. Major news outlets from around the world have been covering this story (Cincinnati.comMSNBC, BBC, Foxnews). Before the grand jury’s indictment was announced, the mood around town was tense. University classes were cancelled. Police were on high alert.

Personally, this all hit home because the shooting occurred in my home neighborhood, Mt. Auburn. The church I planted 5 years ago is home to dozens of UC students who walk to church each week. On July 19th, while I was preaching a sermon about how Christians can faithfully navigate America’s cultural decline, Samuel Dubose was being shot in the head and killed less than a mile away.

The Best and the Worst

Earlier this month, I was proud to call Cincinnati my home when we hosted MLB’s All Star game and local legend Todd Frazier won the home run derby. It was electric. Downtown Cincinnati is vibrant and alive, with a gorgeous riverfront park that invites people from all over the region to sit on our city’s front porch. Just north of downtown, Over the Rhine is a neighborhood undergoing its own unbelievable renaissance, with millions of dollars of redevelopment being invested. This isn’t just hometown pride, others have taken notice, such as National Geographic. Even local Cincinnatians who have inherited her inferiority complex have asked forgiveness and fallen in love (language alert) all over again with our city.

Yet our problems persist. Much of Cincinnati’s current success is due to a dark past of racism and injustice, even if so many of us are unaware of it. For better or worse, this is the city I love and have committed my life to. This is the neighborhood where my kids play. This is where my church is. But we’re sick of the caution tape. We’re sick of the teddy bear memorials on street corners.

We see the best and worst of city life.

The Samuel Dubose shooting shows us that we’ve still got a long way to go. When a white person is pulled over by the police for a minor traffic violation, we think, “Oh crap. I might get a ticket.” But many African Americans don’t have the same experience. Some will tell you getting pulled over by police can be a terrifying experience. And now there’s video evidence (**graphic**) that proves the point. Samuel Dubose should be alive today. Prosecutor Joe Deters called this the most asinine police incident he’s ever witnessed. His outrage gave voice to countless African Americans who feel unfairly targeted and mistreated by police who haven’t had video evidence.

Righteousness and Justice

The bible frequently pairs the words “righteousness” and “justice” (see Psalm 72 for example). Righteousness is the standard of what is truly good, rooted in God’s holy character and love. Justice is the community’s response to unrighteousness and injustice.

As the church, Christians should pray for and promote God’s righteousness in our city, but also fight against injustice when we see it. In so doing, we are pointing people to the good and righteous King who ultimately provides both.

Fighting for righteousness and justice shows us that God himself is the Ultimate Good. Proclaiming God’s righteousness exposes the sin in our world, our cities, and in our own hearts. Fighting for justice shows us that God is bringing all injustice to an ultimate end.

The Hope of God’s Kingdom

That’s the hope of God’s Kingdom. Jesus is the righteous ruler who will bring God’s righteousness and justice to us. And Jesus’ kingdom was bought and paid for through the ultimate injustice, the cross.

Jesus himself was an innocent man who was unfairly targeted by the authorities. Jesus was convicted of a crime he did not commit. Jesus was tortured and killed by people who hated him. There is no greater injustice than what happened at the cross. Yet in Jesus’ resurrection, we see that injustice never gets the last word. Life does. And having conquered the ultimate enemy, death, Jesus promised that all injustice will be made right and God’s righteousness will be absolute.

That is the Christian hope.

Until Christ returns, Christians bear witness to God’s Kingdom in every part of the world. We proclaim a righteous God, who took upon himself all the world’s injustices, and will make all things new in the end.

Injustice never gets last word.

 

8 thoughts on “Injustice Never Gets the Last Word

  1. I just wonder if Prosecutor Joe Deters would have been as quick to act, or if would have acted at all if it had been a Cincinnati police officer instead of campus police. I hope so, and I would like to think so…but I still wonder. #Say Her Name #Sandra Bland

  2. “When a white person is pulled over by the police for a minor traffic violation we think, “Oh crap. I might get a ticket.”. We also do not refuse to hand over our driver’s license and follow other instructions. Otherwise we suffer consequences. The point is not that the police are always right, often enough they are not, and it is not that they never commit murder, sometimes they do. The point is, one thing we keep seeing over and over is a culturally conditioned, belligerent, bull headed, button-pushing response to fairly routine encounters with the police that escalates nothing much into a terrifying experience. And sometimes a fatal one. At that point what anyone thinks of the police does not matter to the victim.

    1. John, you said that “we keep seeing over and over is a culturally conditioned, belligerent, bull headed, button-pushing response to fairly routine encounters with the police that escalates nothing much into a terrifying experience.” Does this justify the police officer’s actions of reaching into the car? Or the police officer’s snap response to shoot the man in the head? Why not back away and call for reinforcements? Many African Americans simply do not experience routine traffic stops in the same way, because so many black people have died in encounters with the police department. My point was that white people do not automatically view a traffic stop as a life-threatening situation, but many black people do.

      1. Michael,
        I half anticipated a “does that justify?” question and I respectfully respond that such questions are usually missing the point. The point is whereas you, and I think most black people, attribute what happens to racism it is fairly obvious that what the police are reacting to in virtually all of these cases is persistently argumentative, uncooperative behavior. White people behaving the same way suffer the same consequences, deserved or not. Those most likely to suffer at the hands of the police are those most likely to offer provocation to the police. I know the police are sometimes bad, but the bad ones are bad to everybody, and if nothing else, when you think the dog is mean, don’t tease it.

  3. I admittedly don’t know much about the case. However, when I read a few news articles, it seemed that everything was against the officer. I mean, even the Hamilton County Prosecuter threw him under a mega bus and that made it seem very clear cut to me and it made me so sad for the incident and the racist act that had shook our city…then I talked to my little brother who is a police officer a few miles south of this incident. I got some new info from him that made me reconsider. I won’t go into much but basically, it seems the media doesn’t just paint things in “certain lights” anymore…They definitely withhold information that is so important to the situation that that I believe it’s teetering on just flat out lying. This is not the first time this guy has an encounter with law enforcement. In fact, here is his criminal record…

    http://www.courtclerk.org/crim_name_results.asp

    Arrested over 60 times, license indefinitely suspended, drug trafficking, etc…

    He had drugs, large amounts of cash and was driving without a license at the time of being pulled over…

    From the knowledge that I do have, it seems to me that the officer made a bad decision to react the way that he did. And that is horribly unfortunate. However, how many of us have been in that situation and can say for sure what we would do?

    My point is, if you’re playing with fire, you’re going to get burned. What you reap, you will eventually sow in this life. If you decide to live a life of crime, the bible promises that it will catch up to you.

    Romans 13 sums up these situations very well.

    Could a racist cop shoot a black man because he’s black?? Absolutely. But what about all the other black people this cop encountered during his years of service? If he was a racist sociopath, it seems it would have happened sooner and not when the suspect was resisting arrest and making a horrible choice to drive away during a traffic stop.

    Good police officers everywhere now have a new reason to be fearful everytime they go into work. Not only could they be harmed in the line of duty, but they now are being specifically targeted more than ever, they are less respected than ever before and they are now considered racist if the suspect happens to be black. They now have to be fearful that if they have to make a split second decision or if they are trying to protect themselves and/or others by having to take someone out, they could lose their lives to a life sentence…mostly because the media loves $$$ more than lives. If we are going to throw the cop under the bus, we better get ready for the repercussions of that. It assumes that it was a racist act, which could further racial tension and insecurities. It also reinforces the need to be unruly and disrespectful towards cops.
    Maybe I’m wrong or maybe missing something but if I am, I want someone to explain it to me because it’s really making me sick to my stomach having 2 family members as police officers, one of which just got shot at recently by “a good boy” that was breaking the law and tried to run away. Thankfully the 2 bullets missed my brother and he is still here today to take care of his wife and 3 sons. But since that guy was such a “good boy” and a little “misunderstood”, he got less than the minimum sentence. He even testified that he shot at him because he hates cops.

    I hope everyone just takes into consideration the repercussions before they make assumptions and take a side.

    It is hard to be unbiased when every “authority” in the situation is biased.

    I am interested to hear how the court case pans out, though I am skeptical this guy will get a fair trial after most of America has seems to have forgotten the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”.

    I hope the cop was not racist. I hope this wasn’t a hate crime. I also hope that this officer does not get a long sentence if he does not deserve one. If he did shoot him out of hatred or racism, I hope he gets what he deserves…I just don’t think we have enough info to make the call that it was racially charged.

    1. Good word, Suzanne. The facts of the case will come out in and hopefully justice will be served. Having watched the video for myself, I think this is a situation where the officer didn’t need to reach for the car door, and didn’t need to reach with his hand into the car as Mr. Dubose started pulling forward. He seemed to escalate the situation.

      I believe that white people can do more to try to understand what its like for African Americans to encounter the police. I agree that police have a very difficult job (and praise God that your brother is safe!). But the African American community has been saying for a long time that they are unfairly targeted by police officers. My own black friends have told me the same thing and its very frustrating for them to feel constantly harassed. My point is simply that if I felt constantly harassed by the police and unfairly targeted all the time, it would be tempting to be less cooperative.

      I’m glad to see Christians engaged in this issue, because of its important to our city!

  4. The Tensing family wrote a short letter that’s on the front page of the Forum section of today’s Enquirer, FYI. If anyone but me still reads the newspaper ; )

    My family’s been praying for the Dubose family, the Tensing family, Ray Tensing himself, and the city. I hope someday my kids see how seriously we take the Imago Dei and human life, and also see that we pray big prayers for all kinds of people because it’s a big Gospel meant for all kinds of people : )

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